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December 13, 2018 | Insights

Give Together This Holiday Season

For many families, this time of year is centered around giving to family, friends and causes we care about. Since joining the firm in October, I have enjoyed getting to know our clients and finding new ways our philanthropy team can help families give together. By partnering with you and understanding your goals, we can work together to fulfill your charitable intentions in ways that engage your family and allow you to enjoy your wealth.

I recently read a new study that reports children who grow up with giving traditions are more likely as adults to give more, describe themselves as “very happy” and volunteer.* Creating good philanthropic habits for your children, particularly starting at a young age, can have a powerful effect on their well-being and giving habits as adults. We recommend involving your children early with family philanthropy so that you can share values and talk about what good stewardship looks like. Not sure where to start? You can easily use the holidays as a way to get them involved.

Start a Tradition This Holiday Season

Depending on your child’s age, there are a variety of giving activities you can do together. For toddlers and children up to 5, pick a giving tree to participate in. Let your child choose a recipient and talk with them about situations in which other children might not have things they need or want. Pairing this activity with a daily practice of gratitude at breakfast or at bedtime is a strong way to introduce perspective on needs versus wants.

For children ages 6 to 12 years old, plan time to do something together that gives back to the community such as donating outgrown coats, warm clothing and toys to a local shelter. Deliver the items as a family or with a group of friends and discuss the impact for a child their age to receive a warm coat or toy they have been waiting for. Organizations often offer tours and seeing first-hand the good work of agencies is worth a thousand parental descriptions!

As children get into their tweens, they are able to conceptualize the impact of money in serving others. Provide the opportunity for your child to give money as a gift to an organization, something you choose together as a family. Many families encourage their children to give a portion of their allowance as part of the total gift. Alternately, children can also identify, research and “pitch” an organization to receive the family gift. As you go through this activity, these conversations should center on what issues are compelling to family members, how they want to make an impact and how they might compromise to reach an agreement. The best discussions consider factors like how the impact of a gift is measured.

The process of participating in a discussion around this type of giving is very similar to the approach we recommend to our clients with donor-advised funds or family foundations. Young family members can sit on junior advisory boards and collectively carry out the task of deciding where charitable grants should go based on their interests and within the parameters of the donor-advised fund. Each junior advisory board member can also be given a small amount of funds, known as a “director’s grant,” to select a charitable cause of their choosing. In this way, young adults practice working together in ways that will prepare them as future board of directors or as senior advisors of the family donor-advised fund. It also teaches them the questions to ask and analyze to perform in making good and impactful gifts.

Giving Traditions that Give

Many of these giving traditions can start or occur any time during the year and we encourage finding a way that works best for you and your family. Involving younger family members can bring a new and fresh lens to which charitable decisions are made. Discussing passions and clarifying gift intentions can induce a rich and powerful conversation about values and wishes of all generations. These conversations are also helpful in steering decisions about future giving and the values a family wishes to instill for their long-term legacy.

Family giving really is a remarkable process that not only benefits the recipients but perhaps is even more enriching to the givers. We wish you and your family happy giving this holiday season.

*Source: AFP News, 2018.